Sunday, March 27, 2022

Water By The Spoonful

 Addiction is not an uplifting topic, but Quiara Alegría Hudes's "Water by the Spoonful" shows us how people can choose to cope with a difficult situation. An Addicts Hotline, hosted by Haikumom, an ex-Junkie whose real name is Odessa Ortiz (Lisa Ramirez), keeps hope alive for fellow long-distance addicts Orangutan (Sango Tajima), Chutes&Ladders (Dorian Lockett) and Fountainhead (Ben Euphrat). The idea is to call in whenever you feel the need to use your drug of choice, and instead talk with the others about it until your craving goes away. As Chutes&Ladders tells Orangutan, "A sober day for you is a sober day for me."

At the same time, Haikumom's son Elliot Ortiz and cousin Yazmin Ortiz (Xander DeAngeles and Lara Maria) are having trouble raising enough money to buy flowers for the funeral of an elderly cousin, whose relationship to the others takes awhile to clear up. Elliot is a Vietnam vet haunted by an Arab ghost (Salim Razawi) and Yazmin is the one responsible for keeping things together.

Elliot is hard to figure. He is both angry and haunted, qualities the author assumes we will accept since he is an ex-Marine who fought in combat. We wish Elliot would give us something besides anger. His scene in Act Two with his mother's computer is just too evil. It's hard to pull for this man. 

Chutes&Ladders 's way of coping with his addiction is to take no chances. He works as an IRS functionary and will have nothing to do with Orangutan's need to have him fly to Japan to meet her in the flesh. "Stay in the Box," he says, so there can be no unpleasant surprises. His and Orangutan's relationship feels honest and is the emotional center of the show.

We are totally on board until intermission. Act 2 runs long, however, as the director and author attempt to tie up loose ends and the acting gets a little frenetic. 

We really like Ben Euphrat.

RATINGS: Two Stars with a Bangle of Praise

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants "Water by the Spoonful" Two Stars with a Bangle of Praise (See sidebar for explanation of ratings.) The performance we saw started very strong but by the end lacked emotional impact, probably due to its length.

"Water By the Spoonful"
San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post St., San Francisco
2d floor of Kensington Hotel
Through April 23

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